Weavers and wasps

Wasps often nest in association with waxbills, weavers and some other birds. The birds obtain some protection from the stinging wasps. How wasps benefit from this association is less clear but some potential reasons are:

  • by obtaining shelter (in the case where the wasps nest in or under the bird nest)
  • or by the birds indicating suitable nesting sites (ie the wasps find good sites by seeing where birds have chosen good sites)
  • or the birds provide early warning of approaching predators
Paper wasp nest in Lesser Masked Weaver colony


The wide range of weaver species includes many savanna species, some forest-living species, some island species. Most records are for true weavers living in savanna.

There are also several examples of this association in the PHOWN database and these may be viewed here.

Most of the records refer to paper wasps, which have medium to powerful stings. Sometimes mud-nest wasps (Mud daubers) build their nests in or on weaver nests (usually deserted weaver nests). Mud daubers are rarely aggressive and stings are very uncommon, so the association is not a protective one.

Paper wasp nests on underside of Sociable Weaver nest mass

Table – records of weaver – wasp nest associations

On = records of wasp nest attached inside or on outside of weaver nest (weaver nest present first)

Near = records of weaver and wasp nests built close together (either weaver or wasp nest built first)

  Species   Latin  On  Near
  Speckle-fronted Weaver   Sporopipes frontalis  single
  Sociable Weaver   Philetairus socius  many
  Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver   Plocepasser superciliosus  single
  White-browed Sparrow-weaver   Plocepasser mahali  few  single
  White-headed Buffalo-Weaver   Dinemellia dinemelli  single
  Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver   Bubalornis niger  some  some
  Asian Golden Weaver   Ploceus hypoxanthus  some
  Black-breasted Weaver   Ploceus benghalensis  single
  Baya Weaver   Ploceus philippinus  few  some
  Streaked Weaver   Ploceus manyar  single
  Red Fody   Foudia madagascariensis  some
  Ibadan Malimbe   Malimbus ibadanensis  some
  Red-vented Malimbe   Malimbus scutatus  few
  Dark-backed Weaver   Ploceus bicolor  single  some
  Red-headed Weaver   Anaplectes rubriceps  few
  Red-headed Malimbe   Malimbus rubricollis  single
  Slender-billed Weaver   Ploceus pelzelni  single
  Black-necked Weaver   Ploceus nigricollis  single
  Little Weaver   Ploceus luteolus  many
  Spectacled Weaver   Ploceus ocularis single  some
  Lesser Masked Weaver   Ploceus intermedius  many
  Vitelline Masked Weaver   Ploceus vitellinus  many
  Lufira Masked Weaver   Ploceus ruweti  some
  Southern Masked Weaver   Ploceus velatus  single  many
  Heuglin’s Masked Weaver   Ploceus heuglini  many
  Village Weaver   Ploceus cucullatus single  many


If you have a photo of an interesting weaver nest or colony, please upload under PHOWN at the Virtual Museum of the University of Cape Town (read the “How to” pdf for help).

PHOWN, PHOtos of Weaver Nests, is a citizen science project to collect and monitor breeding distributions and colony sizes of weaver birds globally.

Dieter is a qualified Bird Ringer and trainer, registered bird guide, and Weaver expert. Dieter is able to act as a bird guide for day trips in Cape Town, and is able to customise birds tours in South Africa and beyond.